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“The Hunger Games” is a Thrilling and Emotionally Powerful Blockbuster

March 23, 2012

By John C.

Watching The Hunger Games, it is impossible not to feel a rush of excitement like you are witnessing the dawn of a pop culture zeitgeist still in the making.  But this is also a thrilling, personal and emotionally powerful film filled with constant suspense, that stands proudly alongside the bestselling trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins.  This is a big movie that will sell itself with a built in fanbase, but it’s also one of the best films of the year, so far.

With showtimes already selling out throughout the city, the film is set to catch fire at the box office over the weekend and this is one of those films that actually deserves all of the attention it has been getting.  Although we were unfortunately unable to offer our usual five reviews, I think we can all agree that this is a film every bit worth seeing.  May the odds be ever in its favour.

Every year, two tributes between the ages of twelve and eighteen are selected by the rich Capitol of Panem from each of the twelve Districts, to compete in the annual Hunger Games.  There will be two dozen contestants competing in the televised event, but only one winner who will be awarded with extra food for their poor villages.  After taking the place of her sister Prim (Willow Shields) at the reaping in District 12, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is chosen to be sent into the arena alongside the kind Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson).  Over the first half of the 142 minute running time, we are introduced to the players and the harsh survivalist world manufactured by Gamemaker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and run by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

The brilliant performances are a big part of what carries the film.  Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated turn in the largely overrated Winter’s Bone now plays almost like a lengthy audition tape for her role as Katniss, and here she cements herself as a genuine star.  Equally strong is Josh Hutcherson, who’s character becomes an unsung hero of the story, with his emotional scenes coming from a place that is as honest as it is heartbreaking.  Also strong is the large supporting cast.  Elizabeth Banks puts just enough vulnerability beneath the tacky decadence of organizer Effie Trinket, and Lenny Kravitz is excellent as the sensitive stylist, Cinna.  Stanley Tucci has a lot of fun as host Ceaser Fickerman.  Woody Harrelson is nothing short of brilliant as Haymitch Abernathy, a mentor and past victor of the Games, perfectly portraying both the staggering alcoholism and defiant determination of his character.

By showing the Gamemakers controlling the Arena through holographic touch screens, we get a different and sometimes even more sadistic side to the plot.  The changes that have been made from the book and the scenes that have been added make this the rare adaptation that stays faithful to the strong source material, while still managing to stand on its own.  By seeing the broadcast of the events and the effect they have on the Districts, as well as those who are masterminding the glorified reality TV show, this becomes an incredibly powerful allegory of our acceptance of violence as entertainment.  The Games are broadcast to satisfy the bloodlust of the Capitol, and it provides a powerful moment when we realize that the first burst of violence that we see in the film is seen on a TV screen.

The film is violent, and it has to be that way.  Because if the disturbing scenes were depicted as cool and empowering, then all sense of meaning that the film has would have been lost.  The quick cuts mean we don’t linger too long on the gore, but the sometimes shocking bursts of violence between the teenaged contestants still hit hard.  This is a cautionary tale of how quickly things could devolve in society, and it encourages an important discussion about the implications of reality television and violence for the sake of entertainment.  Parents will likely bring kids who are far too young to understand the political undertones of the story, but I’m just going to say it straight up.  The movie is deserving of its American PG-13 rating and isn’t appropriate for anyone much below that age.

The way Gary Ross directs the action scenes is captivating, thrusting us right into the midst of the barbaric chaos.  Although many have been comparing the immense popularity of the books and movie to an inferior franchise like Twilight, The Hunger Games delivers as something all its own.  From the excellent performances to the impressive look of the film and haunting musical score produced by T. Bone Burnett, this is a four-star triumph that delivers on multiple levels.  A thrilling and emotionally resonant blockbuster that feels both epic and personal at the same time, The Hunger Games is one of the best movies of the still young year.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Von Zuben permalink
    March 24, 2012 10:40 pm

    We all thought the movie was fantastic! I thought it was very well acted and the movie moved along even at its 2hour 20 minute length. Loved Woody Harelson(sp) in his role. One intense moment that made me jump. I am looking forward to reading the other two novels and then seeing the movies.


    • March 25, 2012 11:54 am

      I agree with everything you wrote and am glad that you liked The Hunger Games. I would definitely recommend reading the books, because the story as a whole takes some pretty interesting turns in Catching Fire and Mockingjay.

      As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      -John C.


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